At breakfast Shawn expressed a desire or perhaps it was a need or a want. I am not sure which. Her exact words were, “Can you fix the dooflachee on the thingy?” No context. No surrounding conversation. No supporting documentation. Her mind is not equipped with a display and keypad where I might scroll up and review her thoughts immediately preceding the pronouncement.
How does one handle, in a husbandly and courteous manner, such an unspecific request?
One choice is to ignore her comment altogether, but experience has shown that this perilous option usually leads to trouble. Follow up conversations may build on the ground work of that first interchange. In short, I am accountable (and probably doomed) unless I can decode and take the correct action.
My engineering career taught me that often the customer does not know exactly what is needed. Good questions asked in the spirit of investigating and reaching a mutually agreed upon set of requirements can greatly reduce disappointment at the time of product delivery. What questions would be appropriate in analyzing a dooflachee request? Perhaps:
- Can you give a brother a clue?
- Might I buy a vowel?
- What are we having for supper?
Be warned that any hint of impatience in the line of questions is tantamount to declaring all-out marital war. I will then go directly to “husband time-out” where I will pass hours in solitude perhaps in the shop or garden. Grandpa Miller explained this penalty to me in the confines of his “pouting house,” that place to which he retreated when he sensed a disturbance in Grandma’s force.
If the winds of domestic tranquility are favorable my wife can ask such a nebulous question, and by virtue of our closeness I will be able to accurately define the dooflachee and the thingy. I will know immediately what course of action to take. And she will smile on me with favor.
If I haven’t a clue I can jump up and do something, anything—small, big, medium sized. While I morph into a whirlwind of activity I can interject, “What else was it you needed me to do?” Hopefully by that time the word dooflachee and the thingy designation can be replaced with their actual meanings and harmony will continue to fragrance the household.
Once the dooflachee transaction has been completed, assuming I survived, I might add, “Call me next time the dooflachee is whiz-banging against the cabersaw. I’ll run to Lowes and get an upgraded kookalater valve and fix it straight away.”
Anything for you, Honey!